The late Flip Saunders lamented about Kawhi Leonard’s dominance on the defensive end the last time the San Antonio Spurs manhandled the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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Reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins is already too familiar with it.
With their stopper leading the way, the Spurs seek their longest winning streak of the season Wednesday night against Wiggins and the host Timberwolves.
Leonard, the 2014-15 Defensive Player of the Year, has been a driving force behind the Spurs leading the league with 89.0 points allowed per game. That mark is on pace to be the lowest since Washington gave up an NBA-best 85.9 during the 1961-62 season.
San Antonio (24-5), which is also off to the second-best start in team history, held Indiana to 42.2 percent shooting in Monday’s 106-92 win that marked its 25th in a row at home. Leonard had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and helped limit Paul George, who came in fifth in the league with 26.2 points per game, to a season-low seven on a career-worst 1-of-14 shooting.
"(The effort) was pretty ordinary," coach Gregg Popovich joked after the game. "He did a great job on a great player – that’s all you can say. He did a fantastic job."
Leonard has held players he’s closely guarded to a 37.6 field-goal percentage and 25.0 mark from 3-point range while ranking near the top of the NBA among starters with 0.77 points allowed per possession.
Now the 2014 NBA Finals MVP is expected to be the primary defender on Wiggins as San Antonio goes after its seventh consecutive victory. Leonard played a major part in limiting the rising star to 11.0 points on 32.4 percent shooting in three matchups last season.
In the only game Leonard didn’t play in the ’14-15 season series, Wiggins played his best with 18 points while making 5 of 11 shots. Leonard only scored 15 in a 123-97 home win March 15 in the most recent meeting, but finished with five of the team’s 13 steals.
Afterward, Saunders said he "took the game totally over" and "just mauled" his guys.
Wiggins, the team’s leading scorer this season, has averaged 24.0 points on 48.3 percent shooting over his last five. He scored 26 and Karl-Anthony Towns added 25 with a season-high 16 rebounds in Monday’s 113-99 loss at Boston that ended a two-game winning streak.
Towns, who is averaging 16.1 points and 9.3 boards in his rookie season, has an interesting matchup in this contest as he faces Spurs legend Tim Duncan for the first time.
The Timberwolves (11-17) have won eight of 11 games when holding an opponent to less than 100 points, but they’ve given up an average of 107.2 over their last 10 games.
That doesn’t bode well facing a San Antonio team that has scored 110.8 per game during its winning streak. The Spurs rank second in the NBA behind Golden State with 25.3 assists per game.
"We have a very unselfish group and they know when the ball moves, we’re in better shape," Popovich said. "But if it doesn’t move and we hold it, our offense really sticks."
Popovich’s club averaged 118.8 points and shot 54.8 percent, including 48.2 from 3-point range, while winning all four meetings last season by 23.0 points per game.